Again on theology, denominations and barriers

preach02Just a few hours ago a teenager contacted me through FB. He wanted to chat “about religion” and, obviously, he didn’t even know the meaning of the term “Unitarian”. He told me he is a member of the Church of Christ (well, not so surprisingly in the end, as the majority of Catholics wouldn’t have tried to contact a Protestant pastor and an increasing number of people leaving Catholicism are “crossing the line” just to pass from the dogmas of the Vatican to the dogmas of the most literalist denominations, finding good harvest places mainly in the South of Italy). So he told me he couldn’t find the term “Unitarian” in the Gospel and asked me if I knew the name of the “real Church” created by Jesus (of course in his mind the correct answer had to be “Church of Christ”, perhaps with a little of tautology) . When I answered that Jesus never gave a name to his Church (admitting he ever created one) and tried to explain that my opinion was the Jesus was trying to speak to everybody, the guy got quite upset but it was when he realized I don’t believe in the “deity” of Jesus (actually I had immediately told him I was non-trinitarian, but possibly he must have thought this term meant I had some skin desease or something similar) that his mind got blown away and he started accusing me to “cheat” people, to be an  apostate, an ignorant, something like the evil son of Satan and so on…
No problem! It was not the first time and it won’t be the last, I suppose, and surely I was not in the mood of quarreling with an exalted and brain-washed kid . But something he said made me think a lot. He wrote (I try to translate from Italian) “to deny the deity of Jesus is against the holy doctrine so, between me and you, someone is surely wrong, and as I know that Jesus Christ is on my side, it must be you, so I don’t want to talk to you anymore”. “Holy doctrine”, “Jesus Christ is on my side”… Well, the whole thing has its logic: quite clearly if you follow the “holy doctrine”, Jesus Christ must forcedly be on your side… What shocked me was the lack of any doubt about the “holy doctrine” he had been taught and he was reporting with a whole anthology of ready-made statements: not a single doubt in his mind, that was the truth and that’s it. There was no meaning for him in listening to my ideas as they were obviously wrong being different from his ones or, better, from the ones of his Church. So I started thinking about the power of dogmas, sticking to the mind of people like an imprinting, denying them the possibility to exert any form of free thought.
Oh, these fanatic fundamentalists…
But well, isn’t any theology, in a way or another, a form of dogma? Doesn’t any theology say, in a way or another, “guy, this is what you ought to think if you want to have Jesus on your side”? Doesn’t any denomination, in a way or another, tell you: “man, if you want to be in, this is what you must believe, otherwise you are out”?
Sure, some elements could be more rational than others, but the core doesn’t change: a dynamic of IN or OUT which, in the end, erodes room to the result of the free, absolutly personal contact with the Divine, with the Further, with the Spiritual, however we want to call it and destroys the bounds of love and brothehood among people.
Probably it’s an easier way to live a religious life: someone gives an intepretation, very probably even a honest one in his mind (certainly with no fear to be refuted by facts as none ever met God in person, was there to witness the correctness of reports written thousands of years ago or to say that things, passing from hundreds of amanuenses, were not written the way we read them) and you just have to believe this is the “holy doctrine”…
Yes, probably it’s easier… but so sad to me… so capable to build walls among people: IN/OUT, nothing in between, no dialogue, no personal growth, no personal engagement in an inner vision… In exchange you get a name, a label, an “identity” in a flooding World but… shouldn’t “human being” be enough as an identity? Shouldn’t “searcher of the Spirit” be enough as a label? Shouldn’t all the rest be your own personal experience to share in your community, if you want, in a bridge-building dialogue?
Well, the guy told me he was going to pray for my spiritual healing… Good! At least I earned two things from my late afternoon chat: something to think about and someone praying for me, which is never bad…

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5 thoughts on “Again on theology, denominations and barriers

  1. Great thoughts. Of course, to believe in nothing (out of fear of being ‘limiting’ or ‘in/out’ as you put it) leads nowhere. At least you told him you believe that God is One, and not a Trinity. That’s a belief that ‘limits,’ too, you know (and good for you for saying so!) If you truly wanted to build a bridge, and not offend him, you could have always have said that God MIGHT indeed be a Trinity. But I’m happy you didn’t do that. Because it’s simply not True. And Truth exists.

  2. Well, Stephen, surely truth exists, and personal feelings and experiences about religion. My experience, my vision in unitarian, of course. The point is never to absolutise your experience so to make it become a dogma. Spiritually speaking what is the truth for you can be wrong for another or, at least, far from his experience. Your vision is your truth,according to me, your path to God. I couldn’t lie and say I had a different vision, but simply I respect any path, and I don’t like the absolutizations of any ready-made world-inglobing theology and denomination…

    • We all believe differently, but those who believe in similar things together have every right to belong to different denominations. To respect one another’s beliefs doesn’t mean we cannot hold to our own Truths, individually or as part of a religious organization.

      There’s nothing wrong with defining one’s faith clearly and with boundaries. Without such clarity and boundaries, a religion cannot even exist. All faiths spell out what they believe and do not believe. If they did not, how could they communicate it effectively to others? To say, “we have no common beliefs about God” (as some say) is to say nothing, and stand for nothing.

      And if there are no Absolutes, we cannot even say God is ABSOLUTELY real and exists, not to mention say that God is One, which is the essence of Unitarianism. That’s the risk one takes by failing to define one’s faith clearly, and it’s a danger by which many Unitarians are ensnared, unfortunately. Peace and Blessings to you!

      • What you say is absolutly right to me. I believe that every human being has his/her own approach to religion and must get engaged into this approach with all his/her steght. People with similar approaches have all the rights to form groups and, if they want, to call them denominations. What nobody has the right to do, in my opinion, is to say: “my approach is the right one and if you don’t follow it you are wrong”, which is exactly what many people and denominations tend to do. This is the reason for which I prefer to speak about congregations of people with common ideas much more than denominations. I believe there is a God and He is one God, but I would never try to impose this idea to anybody as anybody can have his/her own path to God. Peace n blessings to you too..

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